by Colin Wilson – Jul 22, 2021
In 2021, everyone is a photographer. Important – and unimportant – moments are captured on mobile phones. Influencers have taken DIY photography to a different level and now do what fashion houses and fashion magazines have always done: they retouch, stretch and filter every image to make it ‘perfect’.
So why would anyone bother to commission a photographer, especially when the very best could charge anything from £750 to £7,500 a day? The answer is simple: you get what you pay for, and that is talent and experience. Professional photographers have usually trained at art college for up to four years, after proving they have an eye for a good image. After graduation, many would-be photographers work as a photographer’s assistant and spend years carrying the gear, setting up the props, working on lighting and basically learning on the job.
Even after all this, there is a barrier to getting a professional commission if they haven’t got a portfolio of their work that they can show to potential employers. So they have to work really hard and rely on lucky breaks to get this together.
All this means that by the time an art director commissions a photographer, they know they are buying a unique combination of talent, experience and determination. They are also buying in some expensive kit that can transform ordinary shots into something extraordinary with the right person behind the camera. The camera body itself could cost around £7,000, a single lens could be a whopping £14,000.
We hear of great photographers through word of mouth. And we know that one size doesn’t fit all – there is a huge difference between photographers who specialise in portraits, food photography or conceptual photography. The role of the art director is to make sure we are buying in the right skill set to deliver something brilliant for our brand or client. Often there is very little time to get something right and we have to be confident that it will go right – and that guarantee comes at a price.
The secret to the best shoots is preparation – and that preparation can ensure 15 minutes to take a portrait, or a seven-hour working day to shoot 15 recipes, is all we need.
Before a shoot, every single piece of equipment, from lenses to filters and tripods, will have been checked in advance to ensure the right combination of lights and backgrounds are there. It doesn’t matter where the shot is or what time it happens; the photographer can’t be late. They also have to be prepared for every eventuality, so most will have done a recce in advance.
All this means that a lot of work has been done before the shoot happens.
At the shoot, the photographer has to bring a brilliant attitude. They have to put people at their ease. They need to be unflappable. They have to think on their feet when things go wrong. They have to be ready for the executive who decides he really doesn’t want to have his picture taken (this happens a lot). A 12-hour shoot can sometimes be centred around just 15 minutes being spent with the actual person being photographed.
And even when the shoot is over and the expensive equipment is packed up, there is almost certainly an annoying art director demanding an edit of the shots for the following morning. Which they will do. This peace of mind is why we commission professional photographers.
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Published Jul 22, 2021